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Kenneth C. Knudson, Founder of the Midwest Hotel Chain -
Sybaris Suites, Killed in Private Plane Crash Near Chicago

By Mary Ann Fergus and Jamie Francisco, Chicago Tribune
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News

Feb. 1, 2006 - The two pilots at the controls Monday night when a plane crash killed four people near Kenneth C. Knudson, founder Airport in Wheeling were good friends--one a financial adviser who flew blood platelets for the survivors of the Sept. 11 attack on the Pentagon, the other the founder of a hotel chain that offers romantic getaways.

Mark Turek, 59, of Winnetka, was flying the twin-engine Cessna 421B he co-owned with pilot Kenneth C. Knudson, founder of Sybaris Clubs International, Turek's wife, Donna, said Tuesday.

Turek, a senior vice president in Morgan Stanley's Riverwoods office, and Knudson were returning from Kansas with Scott Garland, 40, of Chicago, a junior partner at Morgan Stanley, and a client, Algonquin resident Michael P. Waugh, according to a company spokeswoman and friends of the victims. All were killed.

Turek normally called his wife after he landed, but Monday night her phone was silent. She said she had heard news of the fiery crash but couldn't believe her husband was involved until police came to her door and read her the plane's tail number.

"I'm out of my mind," said Donna Turek, a criminal justice professor at the College of Lake County in Grayslake. "We had a wonderful, unbelievable life. I can't even imagine it's over."

Turek and Knudson had flown to Olathe, Kan., because each had business in nearby Kansas City.

Knudson, 61, of Lake Zurich, grew up on Chicago's Northwest Side and graduated from Austin High School. A former toolmaker, he became interested in karate in the 1960s and established Olympic Karate Studios with 10 sites throughout Chicago, while also earning a 5th degree black belt in the sport. He had been a pilot for 40 years.

He sold the karate studios in 1974 to concentrate on Sybaris, a hotel chain that features suites with whirlpools, swimming pools, fireplaces, even cascading waterfalls.

The chain's inspiration came, not surprisingly, from a bed. Knudson and his wife, Char, were shopping in Schaumburg and fell in love with a huge platform-type bed that sat on lighted glass blocks. So Knudson decided to build one that would fit into their home, said Rande Repke, vice president of Sybaris, based in Arlington Heights.

One of his wife's friends who saw the bed being built, said, "I wish we had a place like this away from the kids, a room like this away from the in-laws," Repke said.

Deciding that couples needed a romantic escape, Knudson purchased property in Downers Grove that became the first Sybaris.

Four other hotels in Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin followed in the next several years. Repke described Knudson as a caring, thoughtful manager who befriended the 185 Sybaris employees. The business will continue to operate, Repke said.

"Ken built a business that was dedicated to bringing couples together," Repke said. "The business is the best memorial to Ken."

Knudson is also survived by his son, Scott, and mother, Gail Knudson.

Waugh was an operating partner in Joe's Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab and the father of three young boys.

Waugh and Garland were good friends who had met through their work for the Lettuce Entertain You restaurant chain. Garland had helped arrange retirement plans for the chain's employees and eventually became Waugh's financial adviser, said Michael Rotolo, chief operating officer for Joe's Seafood.

Friends said the men were in Kansas in part to meet with Waugh's father, Jack, to work on the Waugh family's estate planning. Jack Waugh had met with his son and said goodbye to the group at the airport in Kansas shortly before the plane took off, friends said.

Garland was a financial adviser with Morgan Stanley for three years.

Jennifer Garland, his wife, learned of the crash after landing in London on a business trip. She was expected to arrive back in Chicago on Tuesday night, said Ken Sawyer, Garland's brother-in-law. The couple have two children, ages 5 and 3.

Donna Turek said her husband of 37 years was a wonderful partner and father who read extensively to each of his three daughters when they were young and attended their sporting and arts events through the years.

Donna and Mark Turek, and daughters, Olivia, 24, Jacqueline, 21 and Lucy, 18, were all graduates of New Trier High School. Olivia Turek, a singer in New York, became a pilot two years ago because of her father.

Mark Turek started each day at 5 a.m. with a two-hour workout that culminated with a 100-yard sprint in front of the family's home with their bull mastiff, Justice.

Turek had been a LifeLine Pilot since 2000, according to Karen Halverson, assistant director of the Peoria-based humanitarian organization. Turek made at least 11 Lifeline flights, transporting people with medical needs, but he was proudest of the flight he and his wife made on Sept. 13, 2001, to deliver blood platelets to Washington, D.C., after the terrorist attacks.

"It was a feat because nobody was flying and somehow they managed to pull the strings and fly when nobody else was," Halverson said.

A painting of one of Turek's other planes, soaring over the Chicago skyline, hangs in the family living room in Winnetka.

"My husband perished doing the thing he loved most," Donna Turek said.

mfergus@tribune.com,

cmastony@tribune.com

jfrancisco@tribune.com

Tribune staff reporters Colleen Mastony, Josh Noel and Carolyn Starks also contributed to this report

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Copyright (c) 2006, Chicago Tribune

Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News. For information on republishing this content, contact us at (800) 661-2511 (U.S.), (213) 237-4914 (worldwide), fax (213) 237-6515, or e-mail reprints@krtinfo.com. NYSE:MWD,


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